Inside Dunedin's horror house of filth: Animal faeces piled high, dog locked in chiller

By Rhys Chamberlain

"Disgusting" treatment of animals by a family living in a horror house of filth in a rural Dunedin location has been discovered by the property's new owners.

When the Otago Daily Times visited yesterday, the floors throughout the house were covered in cat and dog faeces, which looked to have been piled up to 30cm high in places.

The new owner, who preferred not to be named, said a dog had been locked in a large 6m by 4m, windowless chiller on the property, which had been used as a kennel.

He said teeth-marks on the door showed it had tried to chew its way out.

An order was needed to have the tenants evicted.

When approached by the ODT, the former tenant did not want to comment on the house or the alleged mistreatment of animals.

The new owner, who took over the property on Wednesday, said the tenants had made a hurried attempt to "clean'' the house, but buckets full of animal faeces remained.

Food scraps and rubbish, including meat, littered the floor and discarded furniture had been left in the house and garage.

Dog kept in this coolstore allegedly clawed its way through the fibreglass wall lining, polystyrene insulation barrier and finally the metal outer skin. Photo:  Stephen Jaquiery and Gerard O'Brien/Otago Daily Times
Dog kept in this coolstore allegedly clawed its way through the fibreglass wall lining, polystyrene insulation barrier and finally the metal outer skin. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery and Gerard O'Brien/Otago Daily Times

He said he thought five people formerly occupied the house.

The pallet floor of a dismantled dog cage was caked in about 10cm of faeces.

Claw marks on the house walls indicated dogs and cats had been locked in rooms, cupboards and cages.

The carpets and floor looked to be rotting and were soaked with moisture. The bathrooms and kitchen were filthy.

The new owner said the 8ha property was "just disgusting'' and the smell that greeted him when he first went in made him feel "physically sick''.

An order was needed to have the tenants evicted from the house. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery and Gerard O'Brien/Otago Daily Times
An order was needed to have the tenants evicted from the house. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery and Gerard O'Brien/Otago Daily Times

Up to 30 cats and four dogs were housed in the property, in which the doors, windows and curtains were never open, he said.

"I don't mind the mess so much. It's what they did to the animals. They [the tenants] started shifting out all these cages full of cats. We lost count after 15 [cats]. How can you treat someone's property like this? How can you treat animals like this? Something's got to be done.''

A neighbour had heard "whimpering'' coming from the home but couldn't figure out what it was, he said.

He believed the SPCA had been into the property but did not know what eventuated from that visit.

A dog was allegedly tied to this faeces-coated pallet. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery and Gerard O'Brien/Otago Daily Times
A dog was allegedly tied to this faeces-coated pallet. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery and Gerard O'Brien/Otago Daily Times

The new owner lived in a house about 50m in front of the property, ran horses in a nearby paddock and he was able to see some of the goings-on at the property.

He said he regularly saw up to six cats at a time sitting on the window sill behind the curtain.

His family had bought the property through a trust and he planned to live in it with his wife and young son.

Asked why he bought the house if it was in that state, he said "We knew it was bad, but not this bad'' and they took a punt on getting the property for well below the asking price.

A friend had owned the property about 20 years ago and he knew the house in its former state, which he said was "immaculate''.

Attempts to get on to the property after the purchase contract was signed resulted in a "bogus'' trespass notice being issued to him and during the one scheduled open home, they were only allowed to walk around the outside.

"We've been trying to get in here since before Christmas. On the open day they wouldn't let anyone in the house.''

Previous owner Lester Davey, of Waimate, said a tenancy tribunal hearing was held about 10 days ago over unpaid rent and to have the tenants removed.


Cat faeces covers the kitchen floor and walls.
Cat faeces covers the kitchen floor and walls. Photo:  Stephen Jaquiery and Gerard O'Brien/Otago Daily Times
Cat faeces covers the kitchen floor and walls. Cat faeces covers the kitchen floor and walls. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery and Gerard O'Brien/Otago Daily Times

The result of that was an order to have the tenants evicted by midnight last Saturday.

By Monday the tenants were still there. Only a phone call from the Ministry of Justice forced them out. They were gone by 6pm on Monday.

Mr Davey had been trying to evict them since December but the tenants refused to let him in to the house. He blamed himself for the situation.

"I hadn't been in there in quite some time. It kind of got out of hand and I couldn't face up to it. The problem is, it's just the [renting] system.''

Asked why he rented the house to those tenants, Mr Davey said they looked trustworthy.

"The problem is, when I met them for the first time, they looked sort of ordinary people and you trust them a bit. I had trouble with previous tenants, as well.''

The price for the property had been lowered "substantially'', Mr Davey said. He bought it nine years ago for about $450,000 and sold it for about $350,000.

"The SPCA did go out there at some stage ... about a year ago ... but I don't know what happened with that.''

Two SPCA staff were at the house yesterday and had begun an investigation. Neither was prepared to comment on the investigation or any previous ones.

A specialist cleaning service did an assessment of the home yesterday with a view to cleaning the inside. Pure Services owner Dave Begg said he had never seen a house so unsanitary.

"It's just disgusting. I had never seen anything like that before. We do see similar sorts of things in Christchurch ... but not to this degree. It's the first time I have seen it this bad with the animals.

"We'll basically treat it like a crime scene. Where the animals have obviously been locked up for a long time ... where the animals have [defecated] ... we can clean a lot of that. We would generally recommend getting the hygienist to do some tests.''

A report and recommendations of what to do would be compiled for the new owners but Mr Davey said they wanted to do some of the cleaning themselves.

To fully clean the house would cost about $15,000 to $20,000.

- Otago Daily Times

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